Ayala CEO to big corporations: Give climate change a seat at the table
With stronger typhoons ravaging the country in the middle of a pandemic, Ayala Corporation Chairman and CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala urges the private sector to incorporate climate change in their business strategies as well as recruit “climate-competent” decision-makers who can shape, implement, and report sustainability metrics.
Zobel, the first Southeast Asian business leader recognized by the UN for championing sustainability, recently joined other business think-tanks as a panelist in the webinar “The Board and Climate Change” hosted by Deloitte on November 2. Other panelists include Paul Polman, former Global CEO of Unilever and current vice chair of the UN Global Compact.
"More urgent now than ever that business steps in. Businesses cannot succeed in societies that fail, nor can they be a bystander in a system that gives it life in the first place,” Polman said in his opening remarks. “Climate change is our biggest existential threat."
Acknowledging the critical role of the private sector in addressing various environmental and social pain points, Zobel highlighted how private companies in the Philippines work collectively to mobilize and organize their resources in times of need. One perfect example, he added, is the formation of the private sector-led Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), where businesses put aside competition to cooperate and build resilience.
The PDRF, which has its own state-of-the-art, 24/7 emergency operations center, has proven itself useful in monitoring and responding to calamities a well as building the capacities of communities and businesses. PDRF, in collaboration with Caritas Manila, Ayala Corporation, and other big business entities, also led Project Ugnayan (www.projectugnayan.org) which distributed over P1.7 billion food vouchers to the most vulnerable population when the lockdown was first enforced.
But beyond partnering with other private entities, Zobel and his fellow panelists agree that climate change must be discussed at the board level of a corporation. That said, climate change and sustainability must be integrated in a company’s investment strategies. According to Polman, hiring one climate change expert is not enough. Instead, each key decision-maker in the company must have a strong understanding of climate change.
“Corporate executives should have a strong understanding about the implications of climate change, as well as have the opportunities to dialogue about these issues at the highest levels to enable officers and the company as a whole to make informed and sustainable strategic decisions,” Zobel seconded.
Across the Ayala group, each business unit has a sustainability officer in-charge of setting, monitoring, and reporting metrics to investors and the public. To name a few:
AC Energy has committed to transition towards becoming fully renewable in a few years’ time in support of SDG 7 on Affordable and Clean Energy.
AC Health has been actively weaving together our different healthcare assets through an integrated telemedicine platform in support of SDG 3 on Good Health and Well-Being.
GCash e-wallet platform rolled out a feature called GCash Forest, where users can earn points using the platform, which they can eventually convert into a physical tree donation that will be planted in Manila’s critical watershed.
Ayala Land has made a commitment to be carbon neutral in the next few years, and they are adopting new technologies and techniques to minimize carbon emissions (SDG 11).
Manila Water continues to roll out technologies to ensure that wastewater can be properly treated and reused in estates and commercial establishments (SDG 6).
Each of these initiatives are in line with the Ayala Sustainability Blueprint, which aims to bridge Filipinos to a better world by 2030 (https://ayala.com.ph/sustainability/).
Finally, Zobel said that climate change is an existential threat to everyone, whether you are a business, a government institution, or just an individual. Its far-reaching effects and implications have an impact on long-term resilience, sustainability, and longevity. Now more than ever, Zobel emphasized that everyone must play a part in mitigating the effects of climate change and building a more sustainable future.
“Corporate executives should have a strong understanding about the implications of climate change, as well as have the opportunities to dialogue about these issues at the highest levels to enable officers and the company as a whole to make informed and sustainable strategic decisions,” said Ayala Chairman and CEO, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, who joined other business think-tanks as a panelist in the webinar “The Board and Climate Change” hosted by Deloitte on November 2. Other panelists include (upper row L-R) Deloitte Global Chair, Sharon Thorne, former Unilever Global CEO and current vice chair of the UN Global Compact, Paul Polman, BNP Paribas Asset Management Global Head of Corporate Governance, Michael Herskovich, and (lower row) Energy Foundation Chair of the Governance and Nominations Committee, Rose Mckinney James.